July’s Pepper of The Month
The Bright Hot Heat of Serrano Chiles
The serrano pepper originated in mountainous eastern Mexico. The name “serranos” is a reference to the “sierras” of its origins. For thousands of years, this chile pepper variety has remained a staple of Mexican cuisine and the states of Sinaloa, Veracruz, Tamaulipas, and Nayarit are still the main producers and exporters of the serranos.
How Hot Are They?
Serranos are usually the hottest chile pepper variety found in most American markets. To give an idea of how hot they are, they measure from 10,000 up to 23,000 Scoville heat units. This is roughly five to ten times hotter than jalapeños.
Just The Facts
The serrano pepper plant ranges from two to five feet tall with around 50 chiles per plant. Each serrano comes in at around three to four inches long. These peppers are known as being the meatier of its chile siblings with a bright, crisp bite. If left on the plant to ripen they can deepen in color and vary from reds to yellows, oranges, and browns although green is the most common color at your local grocery store. Choose the ones with firm, smooth skin as bruised or wrinkly serranos are past their prime and keep them in your fridge for up to two weeks.
A Chile By Any other name
As chipotles to jalapeños, chile seco is to serranos. Chile seco literally means “smoked chile.” So while it can mean almost any chili that is dry roasted, chile seco often refers to a serrano. In this process, the serranos are left to deepen to a lovely scarlet color on the vine and then plucked to roast with smoke. Due to chile seco having bright, crisp berry-like overtones it is used as everything from garnishes to salads to soups.